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Alpine is a fast, easy to use email client that is suitable for both the inexperienced email user as well as for the most demanding of power users. Alpine is based on the Pine® Message System, which was also developed at the University of Washington. It has a similar user interface to the Pine email program found on many Unix systems. It is available from the IT Services Linux service.

This document describes the installation and configuration of version 2.00.

1. Installation

In the University of Washington web site at , select Obtaining Alpine software and then use the first link PC-Alpine Setup Program under the Windows Downloads heading.

All options during the installation process can be defaulted, until you are prompted for configuration information. On the Alpine Configuration Setup screen, select the option Use local configuration file and use the default filename.


Next, a further Alpine Configuration Setup window will prompt you for your Personal Name - enter your name as you would like it to appear in the 'From' field of email messages - your Email Address, and your Mail Server. For Mail Server, enter The option This is an IMAP server must be selected. Next to Login name (optional), enter your account name. SMTP server should be set to


When the installation process enters Alpine, you need to enter your Oxford (Single Sign-On) password. You should not normally check Preserve this password for future logins otherwise anyone finding your computer unattended would be able to log straight in and have full access to your email, including sending messages of any sort in your name.


2. Configuration

These configuration details are particularly aimed at users with experience of Pine on or earlier IT Services systems.

Commands are shown as a capital letter followed by an expanded version in brackets. Only the single letter should be typed and it need not be in uppercase, for example S(Setup) indicates the Setup command, where only the letter S should be entered. If you are not in the main menu, you need to enter M(Main Menu) to make the Setup command available. If you are in the C(Configure) menu under S(Setup), you can find a keyword by using W(WhereIs) followed by part of the keyword, for example, whide will find Hide Empty Directories.

2.1. Collection List

Alpine can deal with multiple groups of message folders called collections. The default list holds one collection which contains only your INBOX and folders sentmail and savemail. To select the folders which are online in your nexus account, use L(collectionLists) in the Setup menu, then C(Change). There is no need to change the nickname but you must have


i.e. Path and View set completely blank.

If you want to use local Pine folders as well as the nexus ones, you could instead A(Add) another collection with the above details. You may want to move this so it is the first collection and will be selected by default. To get the usual listing of folder names, you need to set Hide Empty Directories under S(Setup) and C(Configure). You will find several default Outlook folders have been added at the front of your folder list.

2.2. Configuring for sent-mail

If you have stored messages sent out under previous IT Services systems, you need to set up your old machine-specific addresses in the Alternate Addresses option (search for "keywords" and back up one line) by adding and/or for those machines, and both of and if you have used pine on the linux system to access Herald, where username is your original account username. Then outgoing messages will show the recipient's name rather than yours in the folder listing. You may also wish to set the sent-mail folder name to sent-mail rather than the Alpine default of sentmail (limited to 8 characters for compatibility with early versions of MS-DOS) using the

Default Fcc (File carbon copy)

option near the top of the Configure screen. The default folders for read mail and postponed messages can be altered nearby. Note that if you set the Postponed Folder to Drafts then you will get a warning message every time you use Pine to resume the last draft message (because Pine then tries to delete the empty folder, which Nexus will not allow).

2.3. General options

In older versions of Pine, printing used the Y command rather than %. To enable this, set

Enable Print Via Y Command

(find by searching for via). The useful commands B(bounce), A(apply), H(full headers) had to be switched on explicitly in Pine but are available in Alpine by default.

3. Current Problems

These problems have been confirmed on the nexus system (and probably apply to other Microsoft Exchange servers).

3.1. Save command

When the S(save) command is used to move a stored message to another folder, the following error message is likely to appear:

Message to save Shrank! (msg #nn): Continue anyway ?

This is normally harmless but if you are concerned, please check the message in the new location before allowing deletion from the old location.

Note that if you use Pine rather than Alpine, the command will not proceed and you cannot override this error condition.

This problem is being investigated.

3.2. Mutt email client

At present, Alpine fails to display the content of messages which had a digital signature and were sent using the Mutt email program, but Alpine does not give an error message on simply viewing the message. For other operations such as forwarding, a message format error may be reported.

This problem is being investigated.


Service area: 

Written by IT Services. Latest revision 18 October 2017